The [Monday] Papers
"[William Filan] not only lobbies city officials on behalf of clients who have interests at City Hall but also has a contract to lobby for City Hall in Springfield," Dan Mihalopoulos reports for the Sun-Times.
Wait, did I read that right? Bill Filan is a City Hall lobbyist who also lobbies City Hall?
That would be as outrageous as, say, passing property tax laws and then representing clients who appeal their property taxes.
"Filan, once an aide to House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), has been both a lobbyist for City Hall and a lobbyist for those trying to get something out of City Hall for years, since Richard M. Daley was mayor. The city has paid Filan nearly $1.15 million since 2002 and continues to employ him at a rate of $7,000 a month, under a deal Emanuel signed last year."
It gets better - like it always does.
"That became especially worthy of note recently because, even as Filan was providing "legislative consulting services" for Emanuel's administration, he also was being paid by a private consortium bidding for what would have been the biggest deal any Chicago mayor has ever awarded.
"Filan signed a contract earlier this year to lobby for two companies that joined forces to win the right to operate Midway Airport - and reap any profits from that for decades.
"According to a Wall Street Journal report, Filan's clients submitted a bid of roughly $2 billion and were close to winning what would have been the biggest privatization deal in the history of the city.
"Within hours of the initial report, Emanuel aides said the sole rival to Filan's clients had pulled out of the Midway bidding and that it was better to nix the airport privatization plans altogether."
Emanuel cast the move as heroic - safeguarding the public treasury from non-competitive bidding. At the time, I wrote that Filans' client "had an embarrassing conflict of interest that probably wouldn't have deterred Rahm if not for the Amer Ahmad affair. Rahm probably wanted that bidder all along - and maybe other finalist saw the writing on the wall - but the timing suddenly isn't politically right."
The (typical) lack of transparency about what scuttled the competing bid and why Rahm threw in the whole towel only bolsters the view that we don't know the whole story.
Meanwhile, Mihalopoulos reports that another Filan client is Redflex, our favorite red-light camera company.
Filan refused to speak to Mihalopoulos - either as a City Hall lobbyist or a lobbyist for City Hall. Perhaps he thought he would have to do two interviews.
Likewise, the mayor's office took a pass.
"Asked about that situation, Emanuel's spokeswoman replied with a statement that didn't mention Filan, saying the mayor has an 'established record of enhancing transparency, accountability and ethics standards in city government . . . There are no exceptions.'"
I'll just assume the missing part represented by ellipses was when she said "I sleep quite well at night so don't even think about asking."
Back to the other half of the Sun-Times's two-fer today:
"As an attorney in private practice, Ald. Edward M. Burke has cost Chicago taxpayers millions of dollars," Tim Novak reports.
"Since 2003, Burke and his small Loop law firm, Klafter & Burke, have won more than $18.1 million in property-tax refunds for Chicago property owners, records reviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times show. Burke's victories have cost City Hall more than $3.6 million in lost revenue."
To be sure, everyone has the right to appeal their property taxes. Also to be sure, not everyone gets to be represented doing so by the man who not only helps pass the local tax laws and knows where all the loopholes are but who has a special relationship with those who decide whether to grant the appeals.
"The 14th Ward alderman and chairman of the City Council Finance Committee has found his greatest success in the courts, where he's won $10.6 million since 2003 in refunds on 378 parcels within the city limits. That's the same court system where, for years, Burke has used his political muscle to exert authority over who's chosen to serve in the judiciary."
But sometimes it's just easier to settle.
"Burke often wins his tax fights by negotiating settlements with the state's attorney's office, which Alvarez has headed for five years.
"Burke is a political supporter of Alvarez. He has hosted a campaign fund-raiser for her at his Southwest Side home. And political funds controlled by Burke or his wife, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, have given Alvarez more than $30,000 in campaign contributions."
And it's not as if Burke is helping the little guy:
"Fifty-nine of his clients - which include major corporations such as AT&T, Commonwealth Edison and Walgreens - do business with City Hall or other Chicago governmental agencies, including the Chicago Board of Education, according to Burke's most recent ethics statement."
In fact, the little guy basically has to make up the difference when Burke's clients win.
"Altogether since 2005, Burke has gotten [Blue Cross/Blue Shield] six refunds totaling $360,027. About half of that came out of the city public schools' coffers and about another 20 percent from City Hall."
Burke is more conflicted than Freud's patient roster.
"Burke also does property-tax work for six of the 14 banks where City Hall keeps hundreds of millions of dollars on deposit . . . Burke's firm has won more than $424,000 in refunds for Commonwealth Edison over the past eight years through appeals to the state and by suing to challenge the property assessments for 80 ComEd properties across the city. ComEd also has hired Burke to file tax appeals for some of its suburban properties . . . Burke, representing Michael Reese [Hospital], ended up getting its owners a tax refund of $637,069, convincing the assessor's office it had overvalued the hospital, which has since been torn down."
The only thing missing is a connection between Burke and Filan. Maybe next week.
I think I just coined a term in my head: Double dipwits.
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Posted on October 7, 2013
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